Will also track Google incognito

Billions lawsuit accuses Google of tracking users in incognito mode

"Incognito Mode", "Private Browsing": For years, practically all relevant browsers have offered their own mode that promises better privacy protection. But what does that mean in concrete terms, and what protection can users realistically expect from it? A question that is now at the center of a lawsuit against Google, and one that could cost the company dearly if convicted.

Core of the action

Five billion dollars calls for a new lawsuit against the Chrome manufacturer in the US state of California. The underlying complaint was filed last June, but has now been accepted by the responsible judge, so it will become a procedure. The core of the complaint is the accusation of false promises: Incognito mode would not provide comprehensive protection against tracking. This not only affects other trackers, Google's own advertising networks can also clearly identify users - even if they have activated this mode.

Google's answer to this is as expected as it is simple: you don't promise that at all. As soon as an incognito tab is opened, it is clearly revealed that it does not offer perfect anonymization. In fact, Chrome has been informing at this point for years that both websites and its own provider could further identify users. As with other providers, the whole thing is primarily intended to ensure that the browser temporarily does not remember the websites visited and does not permanently save cookies. In the meantime, the "third party cookies", which are often used for tracking, are automatically blocked in this mode, but this does not provide comprehensive protection against tracking.


An argument that does not convince the judge negotiating the process, however, because she puts a greater focus on her reasoning for the start of the proceedings. Google has not been able to prove that the users have consented to the following tracking, which could make this generally illegal. The main hearing could therefore be more generally about data collections on the Internet. The judge also notes that it is unclear whether the implicit consent of the users assumed by Google is sufficient for the creation of user profiles. In addition, the text on incognito mode does not explain that Google itself can also continue to track user activities through its Google Analytics advertising network. And even if they did, these activities would potentially violate other laws anyway.

It is currently still open whether the proceedings - as requested by the plaintiffs - will be conducted as a class action. Only then could it get really expensive for Google. The plaintiffs are making a claim for damages of $ 5,000 per person. Given the high number of Chrome users, it is estimated that this will add up to $ 5 billion. It will take some time until this is clarified. The first hearing is not scheduled for January 20, 2022. It will be some time before a judgment can be reached on this issue. (apo, March 15, 2021)